Perhaps you’ve heard about buddy systems in corporate wellness programs, employee engagement activities swimming, deep sea diving, special forces, new hire orientations, students who transfer to different schools, etc. The concept of joining with a buddy to accomplish a task is not unique, in fact, it has been around forever, but recent studies show a dramatic impact on the success of any endeavor, particularly the desire to live fit. Take the study from the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University. They surveyed married couples who joined health clubs together and found that couples who worked out separately had a 43 percent dropout rate over the course of a year. Those who went to the gym together, regardless of whether they focused on the same type of exercise, had only a 6.3 percent dropout rate. That is staggering, but I get it.
I have been swimming with a buddy for 7 years. We meet at 5:30 am at least once or twice a week and swim around 2,500 meters, year round. What makes it work? First of all, Harry is an excellent swimmer – he basically taught me how to swim. Second, Harry is a close friend, in fact, I look up to him a great deal as a husband, father and businessman. Our kids have grown up together and we use these swims as part exercise, part male-bonding and part counseling session (with me getting much more counseling than I am able to offer Harry). We go for the comradery as much as the workout and it keeps us coming back. We both travel, so there are times when one of us isn’t there, but the other usually is and we plan ahead when possible. I could barely swim when we started 7 years ago, but now I swim for hours and enjoy it;.my buddy helped me, coached me and encouraged me – and always pushed me.
Recently I reinforced my belief inin the buddy system in two ways. First, I was able to observe the winners of our annual FitWarrior campaign. The winners formed a tight buddy relationship early on in the program and continue this friendship to this day. They pushed each other, encouraged each other and held each other accountable. Buddies may be family, friends or even co-workers – completely different or so it would seem, but with a common goal: To become fit and improve the lives of those around them. Mission accomplished.
The second observation was more personal, I was the person who broke through a barrier. I have had two serious injuries in the past five years and had a very difficult time getting back into competitive running. Every time I ran I felt it was a labor (I know many can relate), I felt awkward and couldn’t find any rhythm;worse, I just dreaded it. A year ago we hired a new sales rep – Matt Lightner, we call him “Lightning”. Matt is 28-years old, a former collegiate soccer player and a heck of an athlete. He also weighs 25 lbs less than I do (not to mention almost 20 years younger). Matt is flat out a better runner than I am, faster, lighter, and runs with a disgusting ease – I hate him. However, Matt made it his goal to push me, to help me burst through my mental block on running.It took him 3 weeks;that’s it.
Make no mistake, Matt is still faster and has gears I will never see (or have long forgotten) but I can hang with him and on some days even give him a run for his money. I love running again and didn’t think it was possible. I really look forward to it. We run three days a week at 6:30 am before work with another co-worker, Neil O’Rourke, who is also a very good runner and more my age. We enjoy the time together, push each other and we start our days with a spring in our step that most don’t experience. I am “chasing lightning” and may never catch it, but I have learned to enjoy the journey and the opportunity to be outside with friends. Who’s your lightning?
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